5 things I’ve learned about social media audiences

by Katie Dolamore, Editor

Telling people you’re a social media marketer often provokes one of two responses: one, you’re a professional selfie-snapper; or two, you’re practically Mark Zuckerberg.

The reality is actually far from either, because social media marketing dovetails surprisingly well with most existing marketing strategies. The content you publish here needn’t differ much from what you publish elsewhere – in fact, if it’s massively different, it’s probably off-brand and you should leave it – but the way in which you present it is crucial.

So, after a few years of navigating the social seas, I thought I’d share some of my top tips to help your brand’s social channels stay afloat.

Tip one: Social media is the great leveller

Anybody who’s anybody has a social profile these days, and they can all interact; where else can you talk to your best mate, your celebrity idol and the Prime Minister with equal ease? This has the knock-on effect of making interactions much more balanced, as any sense of hierarchy starts to disappear.

This means that a great tone of voice is essential. Your brand voice should be accessible and approachable anyway, but this is especially true on social media. Don’t be afraid to be friendly and informal – people respond well to people; they don’t respond so well to corporate jargon.

Tip two: People can be judged by their covers

Many imagine the social sphere as an infinite, overcrowded swarm of voices struggling to be heard – it’s scary. This is only partly true; like any other marketer, you just need to work out what makes your target audience tick. Create a user profile: How old are they? What do they like? Where do they go at the weekend?

Once you’ve worked this out, finding them on social media is a lot easier than it is elsewhere, because social profiles can tell you everything. Want to know where economists gather on LinkedIn? Or what feminists search for on Twitter? Put your content in the right place, and the followers will come flocking.

Tip three: People have short attention spans

Social streams are naturally fast-moving, so keep your posts simple. Remember that social users are impulsive, so they’re likely to share your content if they spot it, and if they like it – but asking them to do more than one thing will probably lose their attention. This doesn’t mean you need to keep your content short, but you do need to make it easy to understand at a glance.

You also need to make your content easy to find, so tag it well. Blog platforms like Tumblr will let you tag as many keywords as you like; but be aware that tagging more than twice on Twitter or Facebook starts to look a bit messy, which could put people off.

Tip four: Everyone has an inner bully

I’ve already said that social users are impulsive, and it’s a sad fact that many impulses aren’t entirely friendly. ‘Tact’ is a foreign term on social media; users are often very quick to pick you up on your mistakes and even quicker to tell you when you’re annoying them.

Unfortunately, mistakes do happen, so just be mindful of this when they do. Double check your posts, respond quickly to complaints and apologise – like a human being, not like a corporate robot. If you want a great example of how to deal with a Twitter crisis, look to O2. During a nationwide network failure in the UK, they rose above acerbic barbs from their following and even started to win people back round. When your mum told you not to stoop to the level of bullies, she had a point.

Tip five: People are more emotional than rational

There’s very little science to determine what makes something trend on social media, but more often than not it’ll be something that makes people laugh, cry, or makes them really, really angry. If you think of something related to your brand that your audience will be passionate about, then share it. And, if you can segue a cat video into your post, you’re winning.

In short, social users are a tricky breed, but they’re also relatively predictable. Social channels work so well for marketers because they let you use the great content you already have to interact with your audience on an even more personal level – as long as you remember to be personable, clear, and persistent, you’ll have a dedicated following in no time.

Published Sep 10, 2015

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